Effect of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order on Courts and Cases

Effect of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order on Courts and Cases

Dear Clients and Colleagues,

We write to inform you regarding the Executive Order issued by Governor Newsom on March 27, 2020 relating to the Rules of Court and the procedures of the Court as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, Governor Newsom’s order allows the Judicial Council to more easily issue orders to amend the rules so that the Courts can still manage the Court operations in the midst of this public health threat. The Governor’s order also partially suspended two laws regarding telephonic depositions and electronic service. 

The main focus of the order is to allow the Judicial Council to issue orders that change the rules of the court so that the Court can still function during the COVID-19 pandemic without affecting anyone’s legal rights. The Judicial Council had already issued such orders, such as closing the Courts and declaring those dates as Court holidays.  

The Judicial Council’s orders are authorized under existing law, which allows the Council to issue orders that suspend or alter the rules during states of emergency. Governor Newsom’s orders remove any impediment that may exist in the law for the Council to issue orders to change the rules to address the current COVID-19 state of emergency. It also allows the Council’s rulemaking authority to the fullest extent allowed under the California Constitution. 

The other two effects of the order are to remove limitations on the Court’s authority as it relates to the telephonic depositions and electronic service. The Governor’s order therefore expands the Court’s authority to allow depositions by telephone. It also allows the Court to expand its authority to issue orders to allow for electronic service of documents.  

This order does not seem to affect the service of the summons and complaint as that requires personal service prior to substituted service. However, as a party may request electronic service when personal service and substitute service could not be accomplished despite the party’s reasonable attempts, it may open the door for electronic service of complaints. 

Further, since it does not mandate the depositions be conducted by phone or mandate that all parties accept electronic service, it does not seem to affect every case pending before the courts currently. Thus, it would only be effective when the court issues an order in a specific case. Should we receive any orders from the court to that effect, we will update you accordingly.

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